Unfortunately, it's a common occurrence that individuals pass without setting their affairs in order. This always creates undue hardship on family. Despite this, very few people know how to navigate what happens to things when someone dies without a plan. Without good planning, assets pass to survivors through a process called “Probate.”
Probate is a process with Court intervention that passes property to survivors via a Will. A Will can be either a written document created prior to passing, or one created by the State of Ohio. When an individual passes without planning, their estate still goes through Probate but the process is different.
With both Willed and un-Willed property, court fees and creditors are paid upfront out of the estate. From there, it depends on what family members survive the decedent. When the individual who has passed was married, and that spouse was the natural or adoptive parent of the decedent’s children, that individual would receive the full amount of the post-fee estate.
When an individual passes and their spouse was not the legal parent of all of the decadent's children, the court takes over. The property would be unevenly divided between the spouse and children. An initial, set portion goes to the spouse. That portion is determined by law based on any shared children. The remainder is divided evenly among the decedent's children.
This gets even more complicated when individuals are survived by grandchildren, rather than children. In that instance the estate is portioned out based on the number of children the couple shared, then passed down and divided lineally.
While there are provisions for passing an estate without a plan, it's less than ideal. Many people find the prospect of life planning to be daunting and unpleasant, so it doesn't get done. However, addressing your estate before it becomes an emergency is the best way to save your family time and heartache down the line.
Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney